4 out of 4 stars
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What happens when bad things happen to good people? How do we know something is fair? If good people, do bad things to right a wrong, is it justified? Does an outcome depend on a parent’s love? Finn Bell’s The Easter Make Believers is much more than a police procedural. It explores the depths of humanity while taking you on a wild ride through the countryside of South Island of New Zealand during a surprise winter storm.
James Chen’s family is held hostage inside their own home in a quiet neighborhood. Something is not quite right about this situation. Before police can react, explosions rock the scene. The Chen’s are an upstanding family. There are no obvious clues of why top-level gang members would be interested in them. Detectives Nick Cooper and Tobe White struggle to work through the why’s of the case. As they decide to try a potential lead, an early snow storm threatens to thwart their progress. Will they locate James Chen before he meets an untimely death as a result of the storm or by the hands of the gangster who has him? Will the case be resolved in a fair, unbiased way?
There is something about Finn Bell’s writing that really drew me in. Bell masterly described the scenes and maintained the suspense throughout the novel. I enjoyed following the twists and turns as the detectives worked their way through the case. The characters discussed the effect of parental love right at a good point in the story’s timeline and it provided a lot to think about in the case and life in general. I liked that the story went beyond just finding a suspect and posed questions about morality and humanity without being dry and overly complex. At the end of the novel, there is an afterword with more information about the setting and history of gold mining which was insightful and added a helpful layer to the novel.
While the opening story of the main character meeting his father was compelling and pushed me to continue to reading to find out more, I felt that it did not relate as strongly to the story as I would have liked. Although it does seem to touch on the theme of the impact of a parent's love but I would have enjoyed if there was more detail to this back story of one of the main characters. Adding a bit more about the character's mother to contrast the potential impact of the father would have deepened the discussion.
The pacing of the novel was excellent and the story had elements that I don’t normally encounter in this crime drama genre. The novel appeared well-edited and fully planned out. The philosophical asides were deep without going over my head. I would recommend this novel to just about anyone, especially those who are fans of murder mysteries, and crime novels. It was a truly enjoyable read and surprisingly thought-provoking which makes my rating a 4 out of 4 stars. I look forward to reading other works by this author.
The Easter Make Believers
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